Chicago for the past few years has been a lot of attention. Whether it’s the violence inaccurately portrayed in the media, the new talent that comes out of Chicago, the television shows and movies filmed here, Chicago has somewhat become a hotspot for entertainment currently. Although many opportunities are being created here and the city is being spotlighted in major publications, the people involved in the Chicago music and art scene still fill as though they are being left out and it’s as good as others make it out to be.
Rapper and activist Jasmine Barber, known under the moniker J Bambii, went on a social media rant discussing her views on the Chicago art scene and her dismay in it’s current state. In her rant, published on Facebook, Barber wrote:
Rapper and activist Jasmine Barber, known under the moniker J Bambii, went on a social media rant discussing her views on the Chicago art scene and her dismay in its current state. In her rant, published on Facebook, Barber wrote:
The status has gone viral on different social media platforms with many people agreeing with the statement. Many artists in various media forms even used Jasmine’s words as a stepping stone to discuss their own experience in the Chicago art scene. Chicago female rapper Jovan agreed with the post as well, and even went as far as putting in her two cents in an Instagram post. The rapper took it as far as calling out the radio stations and bloggers in Chicago, hoping they would represent and give opportunities to more artist in the city, other than the ones that are popular. While the love for Chicago is always here in the city and the people who live in it, there’s a big elephant in the room that cannot be ignored anymore. As Jasmine Barber says, the Chicago art scene can be better, and hopefully, after this article, it will be better. It needs to be better.
The hype of Chicago is at an all-time with high, with various major events located here and major music acts coming out of this city. Chicago has always been a focal point and platform for greatness in every entertainment arena. This dates back to when Soul Train first premiered in Chicago, and it continued to be a platform for others from Oprah, the many actors, and comedians who come from Second City, Michael Jordan, iconic movies filmed here, and this goes on. Of course being in this environment and hearing about your city all over the news and social media would inspire others to get into these fields. Nothing wrong with being inspired by the city you live in, everyone wants to give a good representation of the city, but there are people within the Chicago art scene that are giving the city the bad name and who are holding the city back from its greatness.
I must admit, working within the art and entertainment scene in Chicago, I’ve witnessed this myself and I, myself, have been in situations that Jasmine Barber talks about in her post. As much as I love Chicago, I hate to say, most of what she said is true. The problem that needs to be addressed amongst Chicago artist is egos and favoritism. Chicago can be a lot stronger in the art and entertainment field if people truly invested and promoted Chicago’s up-and-coming artist. A lot of artists in Chicago don’t get the recognition they deserve because they don’t fit in with what’s cool, or the “cool” crowd in Chicago. I understand you want to help your friends and all, but we can’t keep having these conversations of “why are people sleeping on Chicago?”, when some of you frown upon people who aren’t wearing clothes from Iridium or Leaders 1354, or who don’t have over 1,000 social media followers.
Due to so many incidents of artists being overlooked, ignored, and frowned up, I believe along with favoritism, egos need to be discussed in the same realm. Now, I’m not surprised egos are a problem in the Chicago art scene, since there’s not that many opportunities for artist (Chicago’s the type of city where you got to fight for what you want). Even though we are not Los Angeles or New York, it’s no reason for artists in this community, to have an ego that is, quite frankly, bigger than your resume. It’s quite common for people in the art community in Chicago you have an ego once they get a little bit of success. There are so many cases where people have let a little success go to their head; they might throw one of the hottest parties, might work with a local celebrity, get a photo-op with a famous person, be featured in the Red Eye newspaper, but they don’t have much going for themselves after that. All this clout chasing, and unfortunately, I wouldn’t know who you are if I saw you walking down the street. If no one’s asking for your autograph, I think you should be humble and talk to people, not talk at people.
Speaking of talking to people, lets talk about something that plays into both egos and favoritism, networking. Chicago needs to improve when it comes to networking and connecting with people in the art industry, I will admit that. In the words of Issa Rae, people in Chicago like to network up, they don’t network across. They want to connect to with the people higher up and impress those with fame, instead of connecting with those who are right next to them and not build a core fan base. Unfortunately, no one really wants to connect with you until you’ve done something major; most people will brush you unless they found out you know someone or you’ve been somewhere. From my own personal experience, I’ve had people brush me off, deny my talents, and made no efforts to communicate with me. Somehow, those same people who brushed me off all of a sudden know my name, follow me on social media, contact me, etc when they find out my accomplishment and the events and awards show I’ve attended. When I come across these people I always wonder, do these people want to connect with me because they believe in me, or do they want to attend the places I go to or just use me to get to the people I know? If I didn’t have the success that I had, would they still be contacting me?
Due to egos and the crabs-in-the-bucket mentality that runs rapid in the art scene, many find it hard to connect with people, build with people, and find trust within the art community. There is a slew of talented artist in Chicago in all media forms, but unfortunately, they get left behind because they’re not cool enough, or they’re overshadowed by the clout chasers and people who are into the art scene just to be famous. If you’re into the arts for profit, you should just leave while you’re ahead, because people are going to see through it. A lot of people in the Chicago art scene don’t last long or are stuck in the same position because they’re doing this for the wrong reasons. If your main focus is “celebrities”, “fame”, and “likes on Instagram”, then, in my opinion, you’re not in it for the art, you’re in it for the success and the bragging rights.
Chicago will always have a place in my heart, there’s no place like home. Some of the most talented people in the world are from here or have gotten their start here. Oe day, Chicago will be seen in the same light as New York and Los Angeles, but in order for that to happen, we must first stop turning and travel to New York and Los Angeles. We need to turn and go to our neighbors.